A Pilot Rock man died and two others were seriously hurt in a fall while recreating near West Birch Creek south of Pilot Rock.
Cody Gene Watson, 21, died in fall that occurred around 9 p.m. Thursday. Kyler Carter, 23, and Braydon Postma, 23, both of Pilot Rock, suffered significant injuries in the fall.
The Umatilla County Sheriff Office Dispatch received a 911 call from Carter around 9 a.m. Saturday stating he, along with Watson and Postma, had been injured in a fall.
The three of them had been recreating at the Big Falls on West Birch Creek – a very steep rocky falls – south of Pilot Rock and had fallen off a ledge approximately 50 feet down.
Carter said he was unable to get cell service at the location of the accident and had climb back out and hike to a place he could call 911 the following morning. Watson and Postma were still at the location they had fallen with critical injuries.
Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (UMASAR) was activated, and Pendleton Fire Department was dispatched, along with LifeFlight. Oregon Emergency Management was notified. Because of the nature of the injuries and the location, a hoist flight craft was requested.
UMASAR requested assistance from the U.S. Forest Service to see if any fire crews were in the area that could respond quickly. UMASAR also contacted Union County Search and Rescue to mobilize their rope team. Umatilla County Sheriff’s deputies and their K-9 unit also responded. A U.S. Forest Service short haul helicopter from McCall, Idaho and an Oregon Army National Guard Black Hawk from Salem were deployed for hoist capability.
An 11-man fire crew with a paramedic from the Forest Service was able to reach the location and provide initial assistance.
Watson was dead when the crew arrived and both Carter and Postma had significant injuries. Additional first responders hiked into the location and a coordinated effort was made to rescue Carter and Postma, who needed immediate medical assistance.
The Oregon Army National Guard Black Hawk team was able to extract the two and transport them to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.
Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office deputies took over the death investigation. Members of UMASAR remained with the Watson’s body overnight until around 10 a.m. Saturday morning when another Black Hawk crew returned to the scene and was able to assist in the recovery. The body was turned over to Burns Mortuary.
Any further information on the condition of Carter and Postma is currently unknown.